What does luxury mean to you? By definition, the word means a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.
However the world chooses to define luxury – be it through designer items that can be paid for at the drop of a hat or through island hopping to destinations that many could only dream of – luxury isn’t something that is often associated with Black women due to the many social and systematic things that hinder us from being comfortable or presented as elegant – until most recently.
In a social media age, where excess is everything and the quality of your life is often determined by the strategic placement of the photos you share, we are seeing a lot more Black women embracing luxury in all of its glory, from designer clothes to the exotic vacations that have found its way on everyone’s mood board.
Seeing Black women embrace luxury and enjoy the finer things in life is great to see in a world that often told us that these things weren’t for us and provides a nice little boost of positivity and happiness across our social media feeds – especially because it’s the opposite to the images that people are used to seeing of us.
Black people are typically not thought to be able to afford the items associated with luxury living but we are seeing that change – particularly among Black women who are thriving in their careers and have more disposable wealth to afford such luxuries and it provides an image of Black womanhood which isn’t filled with struggle and sacrifice.
These images of Black women embracing luxury has become a movement championed by women who live that life and those who aspire to access it. Right now, a Black woman sharing an image with a Louis Vuitton bag while sitting in an expensive car is seen as so much more than just having a fancy bag and an even fancier car. It signals to the world that Black women deserve to enjoy the finer things in life and that we can with ease.
But the more we focus on the materialism of it all, are we taking away from the importance of prioritising luxury for Black women in fields of real importance? After all, buying expensive things doesn’t change the positionality of Black women as a whole.
Time and time again we have seen that economic progress and change of class status doesn’t stop racism and patriarchy from permeating their way into the lives of Black women.
Black women deserve luxury outside of just designer handbags and clothes. We deserve luxury in the healthcare system. Instead, our pain is ignored, and we are made to sit in our discomfort.
We deserve luxury in the workspace. Instead, there are microaggression and a lack of diversity. And yes, we deserve luxury items as well.
In the midst of the Black women in luxury movement, there has been conversations around Black women wearing bonnets in airports. Being able to afford to fly is already a luxury within itself but somehow a Black woman partaking in this activity is devalued because she’s wearing something that is mostly only used by Black women.
This is just further proof of the paradox of Black women in luxury. Despite our willingness and ability to afford the finer things in life, it’s often marred by a discourse that aims to diminish us and is something we should question.
After all, how luxurious is the expensive trip when you’re harassed in the airport for wearing a bonnet or having your hair searched on the way there? How luxurious is the handbag you purchased when you were followed around the store the entire time you were shopping for it? How luxurious was the spa when you had to ride to a place where you were the only Black person near for miles? Comfort and elegance is a lot more complex when we enter ‘luxurious’ spaces and the luxury rarely extends to all aspects of our lives.
Although the photo ops are great and I enjoy the fleeting feeling of euphoria when I see Black women living their best lives on the gram, I’m reminded that it often only goes so far and doesn’t really change the state that Black women are in.
It’s not to say that we should stop basking in the luxury we can afford but it’s key to make sure this movement extends far beyond materialism. It’s only through systemic change that Black women can really live a life of luxury.
We must fight for luxury to be a norm for Black women across the board – not just a perfectly posed set-up for a picture.